In this Christmas season of executions and pleas for clemency, it's time for a 60-Second Guide to the Lieutenant Governors:
Virginia's Tim Kaine. Democrat, Catholic, becomes governor next month. Antiabortion, anti-death penalty, but says he will enforce state laws. Won't use clemency to promote his personal views. Would he have done as Gov. Mark Warner did last week, granting clemency to a death row inmate because DNA evidence from the case was destroyed by an errant clerk? Kaine, eager to prove his Virginia values, wouldn't say.
Maryland's Michael Steele. Republican, Catholic, running for U.S. Senate. Antiabortion, anti-death penalty. Stayed loyally silent to pro-death penalty Gov. Bob Ehrlich over the past three years. Tasked by Ehrlich two years ago with responding to a study that found murderers more likely to be executed if their victims were white, Steele conveniently put off his report until next month, after last night's execution of a black convict.
Profiles in courage? Or practical solutions to an impossible issue? Politicians who support Catholic teachings yet act otherwise in public point to theologian John Courtney Murray, who wrote that "it is not the function of the legislator to forbid everything that the moral law forbids."
Bottom line: A Virginia liberal Democrat and a Maryland conservative Republican try to show they are moderates by putting aside their principles. The heart swells with pride.
Back when baseball was still the national pastime -- we don't have pastimes anymore, we have multitasking mini-passions -- the Hot Stove League consisted of old codgers yammering about how their team would perform come springtime.
Today, the offseason is a technophile's delight, a time to run stats, memorize player salaries, and now, thanks to angry Washington Nationals fans, googlebomb the commissioner of baseball.
As of yesterday, an Internet search for "national disgrace" produced the official biography of Commissioner Bud Selig, who runs neck and neck with D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos in the race for Number One Enemy of the Nats People.
By using their blogs to create links from a given phrase to a particular page on the Web, googlebombers outfox the search engine's algorithm for determining what results pop up. The six-year-old practice has given us such devilish links as "more evil than Satan" to the Microsoft home page, "miserable failure" to President Bush's biography and "gastrointestinal dysentery" to a Florida restaurant that sacked a waiter for blogging about his job there.
"We were really frustrated with the continued delays about naming an owner," says an organizer of the Selig attack, John Yudas, a Web designer who lives in Alexandria. "We thought about not buying season tickets, but we didn't want to hurt the Nationals." So they tried googlebombing.
The organizers blame Selig, rightly, for sentencing the Nats to a much worse showing next season than the team had in its inaugural year. With no owner and no money to play the free agent game, the Nats are losing some of their best players.
Selig, who has repeatedly let slide promised dates to pick an owner, seems uninterested in building a great franchise here. Is he holding out for Virginia? He shouldn't; Kaine, an avid Nats fan, is no more inclined to pump state money into a stadium than was Warner. Is Selig still aiming to contract the league and dissolve the Nats? Even baseball now sees Washington, as the Redskins do, as a gold mine.
No, the reason the Nats lack an owner is more mundane: Selig is holding the team hostage while shamelessly negotiating for an even better deal with the District than the sweetheart pact baseball already has. National disgrace, indeed.
Here at the office, we started taking bets early yesterday about how long it would be before Montgomery County, America's colossus of snow shyness, closed schools. Then came this: "EMERGENCY MESSAGE: 12/5/2005 at 10:34 AM -- Montgomery County Public Schools will NOT be closing early today."
Yes, it's gone so far that MoCo now feels the need to alert parents when it is not shutting down. Wow.